Savour Sri Lanka Food Holiday

17 day holiday from -  £2,545 per person based on 2 adults sharing a twin or double room. Excluding international flights.

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Tour Highlights

  • Witness the amazing seafood on offer at the gregarious Negombo fish market
  • Spend time with local people learning the intricacies of Sri Lankan cuisine   
  • Take a stunningly scenic train journey into the hills to learn the process of Ceylon tea production    Tantalise the taste buds with flavoursome, fiery curries and sweet desserts
  • Wander through authentic markets to appreciate the diversity of local produce
  • Take part in a cookery demonstration with a talented local chef
  • Stay in a rich array of hotels which showcase some of the best of Sri Lanka’s gastronomy

Suggested Savour Sri Lanka Food Holiday

Day 1 – Arrive Negombo (Drive – 30 mins)
On arrival, transfer to your hotel to relax after your journey. Overnight Villa Hundhira – Standard Room (B)

Negombo
Negombo (literally ‘Group of Bees’) sits one the west coast of Sri Lanka, at the mouth of the Negombo River alongside the vibrant and wildlife-prolific lagoon.  The city is bisected by the Dutch canal which indicates a vital element of the city’s more modern development.  Until the 16th century, the Moors dominated the settlement and held a virtual monopoly over its extraordinarily fine and endless supply of cinnamon; at this point the Portuguese arrived and drove out the Arab powers, building settlements and seizing the cinnamon trade, earning the town the nickname ‘Little Rome’ – St Mary’s Church is the most significant religious relic of the Portuguese dominance.  By the 1630s the neighbouring kingdom of Kandy attacked and, asking for Dutch backing, saw the city captured and placed directly under Dutch control.  This led to the building of its finest installations, including Negombo fort (1672) and the extensive canal system which linked it to Colombo and beyond. The capture of the region by the British in 1815 coincided with a decline in the cinnamon trade and the colonial power encouraged the development of plantations of coconuts, tea and coffee which still abound today. Beyond the multi-faith array of sacred buildings, Negombo still has a busy fishing industry and draws visitors on account of its beaches in close proximity to the airport.

Day 2 – Lagoon and Canals of Negombo – Dambulla (Drive – 3½ hours)   
Visit the atmospheric fish market (closed on Sundays) and weave through the stalls packed with all manner of seafood to get a good initial feel for local produce on the coast. Following this, take a boat trip around the Negombo lagoon and the old Dutch-built canals. The narrow waterways of the canals allow fascinating glimpses of local life. Upon entering the vast lagoon, your vessel gently cruises through the plentiful mangrove swamps, on the lookout for birdlife – you can expect to spot all kinds of colourful birdlife from White-throated kingfishers and Pheasant-tailed jaçanas to White-breasted water hens. Water monitor and crocodile sightings as well as the endemic Toque monkey are also common.  On the return voyage, the dazzling kaleidoscope of colourful fishing boats of Negombo’s fleet provides wonderful photo opportunities. Continue on to a coconut plantation (approximately 1 hour away) to discover why this ingredient is integral to life in Sri Lanka. Learn how all parts of the tree play an important part in daily life, sip the water of a king coconut, watch ‘toddy tappers’ extract the palm wine from the coconut sap and taste the refreshing results. Enjoy your first Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch. Head inland to Dambulla (approximately 2 hours), home to vibrantly decorated cave-temples. The hotel is an ideal base from which to explore the wide array of natural wonders and historic sites of this fascinating locale. Your evening is at leisure to explore. Alternatively, your guide can point you in the direction of a delicious local Kothu Roti restaurant. Your accommodation for the next 2 nights has its own herbal and vegetable garden to explore.  Overnight Rangiri Dambulla Resort (B, L)

Dambulla
The rural town of Dambulla has long drawn visitors to its vibrantly decorated Golden Cave-Temple, a complex of Buddhist and Hindu shrines, with elaborate paintings dating back to the 1st century BC. Before this, there is much archaeological evidence of cave dwellers from as far back as the 7th century BC.  The cliff stands dramatically above the town, towering to 500 feet; the cave complex is extensive – the largest in Sri Lanka – but 5 main caverns with inspiring rock-hewn edifices form the main attractions. The Buddhist influences began with construction of the ornate stupa in the 400s AD and over 150 statues of Lord Buddha, the main focal point for the site, can be viewed. The Hindu additions came in the 1100s before a late Buddhist revival in the 18th century. The town’s tiny but fascinating museum documents much of the history of artwork in the area. With nearby lakes and hills, the latter of which provide the source of the town’s historic rose quartz crystal trade, there is much exploring to be done, mostly within easy walking distance. The Wholesale Market, again the largest in the country, beggars belief and is a must-see for those fascinated by food and its journey from field to feeding place: two huge halls contain a veritable cornucopia of local produce from vast clumps of bananas and tangled mountains of root ginger to carpets of chilli peppers and bristling bales of curry leaves. For cricket fans, or indeed engineers, the Rangiri International stadium hosts the national team’s cricket matches and was built in just 167 breathless days!

Day 3 – Sigiriya Rock Fortress (UNESCO) – Dambulla (Drive – 30 minutes)   
After an early breakfast, drive to Sigiriya Rock Fortress, referred to by Sri Lankans as the 8th wonder of the world.  This breathtakingly beautiful and dramatic site is a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. Here you will have the opportunity to ascend the rock to witness its elaborate ancient fortress complex (approximately 2.5 hours round-trip on foot, including stairs) and marvel at the 360 degree panorama. The 200 metre high ancient remains of a defensive capital built by a fearful king, ‘Lion’s Rock’ house dynamic 5th century frescos, terraced gardens and splashing fountains On your ascent of the rock fortress, take time to linger at the wonderfully preserved frescoes, depicting buxom, wasp-waisted maidens bearing flowers. Enjoy the amazing 360 degree views from the top of Sigiriya. Time ekes rapidly away in this incredible place and all too soon it will be time to descend. Next, observe age-old traditions at a nearby chena cultivation area, one of the oldest forms of agriculture known to humans. It’s particularly popular in the dry zone of the country where it rains only for few months for the year. Principal crops are tropical vegetables, cereals, grains, yams and corn. Then feast on local vegetables, curry made with tapioca and fried fish caught in the nearby lake for lunch. Later this afternoon, return to Dambulla to explore the Wholesale Market, and dodge the trucks and people, piled-high with every type of produce imaginable. Boasting an incredible array of fresh food, much of which is subsequently transported to Colombo for sale, this is the perfect place to get a sense of Sri Lanka's agricultural diversity. The rest of the evening is at liberty for you to create your own food adventures. Use the time at leisure to meander the town’s streets or sit back with a drink. Overnight Rangiri Dambulla Resort (B, L)

Sigiriya Fortress
It is hard to overstate the stunning beauty and drama of Sigiriya. Named after the vast lion (‘Lion Rock’) whose base and paws still dominate the 5th century fortress’ gateway, the site has had several functions.  British archaeologists began excavations in the late nineteenth century, having found a landscape entirely overrun by nature, and considered that the earliest settlers came nearly 5 thousand years ago, though the first substantial building wasn’t until the late 400s AD when the rock summit fortress and surrounding complexes were built as a more secure capital.  By the violent end of his reign, the capital went elsewhere and a Buddhist monastery grew up which endured until the 14th century.  During its occupation, both the elaborate citadel and its surrounding moats, terraces and breath-taking gardens were examples of truly exquisitely planned urban development. In particular, visitors come to view the mirror wall and extraordinary frescoes which once probably covered the majority of the rock sides, indicating the sheer opulence and the grand scale King Kashyapa’s project.
 
Please note that the ascent of Sigiriya and visiting the frescoes should not be undertaken by people with joint problems, breathing difficulties, heart problems or vertigo. The top of the rock is exposed, so wearing a hat is advisable. The lower sections of the site still hold a great deal of interest from a historical perspective and the museum is excellent.

Day 4 – Dambulla Cave Temples (UNESCO) – Spice Garden – Kandy (Drive – 1½ hours & 2 hours)   
This morning visit the Dambulla Cave temples (UNESCO), located high on a cliff face. You will have time to explore these this morning and admire the many Buddha images, frescoes and paintings. On the way to the physical and spiritual heart of the country and the former home of the last Sri Lankan king, stop for lunch at a spice garden in the renowned spice-growing region of Matale. Sri Lankans are the masters of spice production and here you can learn how spices aren’t simply utilised for food, but also cosmetics and ayurvedic medicine. Imbibe the fragrant odours of cumin, cinnamon and curry leaves before savouring pumpkin curry flavoured with aromatic fenugreek, with a side of dry chilli sambol and the uniquely Sri Lankan coconut roti. As the spice gardens here are popular with tourists, you may find the prices relatively higher than those outside, but it is the ideal place to learn about the best Sri Lankan spices. Continue on to Kandy and arrive by late afternoon (approximately 2 hours). Kandy is a pleasant city surrounded by lush green countryside, and home to copious old shops, a bustling market and some great restaurants. This evening watch the colourful processions that make their noisy way down to the fascinating Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth (a UNESCO world heritage site), so called because it contains a sacred tooth belonging to Lord Buddha. Contrast the holy hush of the temple with the booming, energetic drums that accompany the elaborately costumed performers of a Kandyan dance show. Overnight Hotel Suisse (B, L)  

Kandy
Set in a relatively temperate zone, Kandy is encircled by lofty hills and lies at the heart of the hill-country. Its altitude makes it cooler than the coast, but it lies in a basin alongside the River Mahaweli and so can still be hotter and drier than surrounding hill towns. The kingdom of Kandy dates back to the 14th century and saw a fiercely independent and successful era, repelling a series of invasions from the Portuguese, Dutch and British until finally succumbing to colonial rule under George III of Britain in 1815. The city has continued to grow, being the Allied headquarters for South-East Asia in World War 2 and the modern, vibrant culture is based around the gemstone, tea and textile industries, the wares of which are all worth perusing during your visit. Visitors come largely to see the religious site at the Temple of the Tooth, a major pilgrimage destination, the delightful botanical gardens and the fascinating museum.  Further afield, the hills and peaks afford superb trekking opportunities.

Day 5 - Temple of the Tooth – Kandy at leisure    
This morning, if you wish, once again join the throng of pilgrims to visit the areas of the Temple of the Tooth that eluded you last night. The rest of the day will be at leisure for you to explore Kandy. Take a stroll by the picturesque lake, Kiri Muhuda (‘Sea of Milk’) which was created in the early nineteenth century and borders the temple location, or explore the local markets and the idyllic Botanical Gardens. This evening visit a small traditional house and enjoy sumptuous Sinhalese fare with a local family. Overnight Hotel Suisse (B, D)
    
Day 6 – Kandy to Bandarawela (Train – 4-5 hours)   
Today enjoy a spectacular ‘Tea Train’ journey from Kandy into the heart of the tea country. There are insufficient superlatives to describe the inexhaustible flood of fabulous vistas around every twist and turn, through each tunnel, from the vertiginously spectacular viaducts and bridges. Be sure to try out some of the tasty platform-sellers’ snacks – the spicy peanuts and caramelised curry-leaf packets are a revelation. On arrival in Bandarawela, transfer to your striking accommodation. The driveway up to the property is flanked either side by vivid emerald ranks of tea plantations. Spend the rest of the day relaxing in the pristine garden. The cuisine here is simply excellent.  Overnight Ceylon Tea Bungalows (B)  

Kindly note that train tickets are in high demand in Sri Lanka and can only be reserved around 14 days before travel. We will do our best to secure you tickets, but in the event they cannot be acquired then private transportation will take you to Bandarawela. Also, note that if you prefer a shorter train ride then we can travel by road to Nanu Oya and then complete just the last 2 hours by rail.

Day 7 – Bandarawela
Rise early and head down from the vantage point of your veranda for a relaxing stroll through the dawn mists that gently rise above the luxuriant surrounds of the local tea plantations (closed on Sundays). Depending on the season, you may meet with some of the plantation workers and try your hand at the age-old skill of picking tea leaves. Take the short walk back to the accommodation and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. The rest of the morning is yours to relax and perhaps look out for some of the many exotic bird species that are resident here: such as White-bellied drongo and Coppersmith barbet adorn the lower tree branches and the chatter of bulbuls and babblers is never far away. Later, travel out to the town of Haputale (approximately 1 hour), clinging precariously to the southern edge of the hills, for a home-cooked lunch with a Tamil family. Sample traditional Tamil cuisine with Dosa, a crispy rice pancake, and Idli, a savoury steamed rice cake served with curry sauces or chutneys, all set against the glorious backdrop of the endless views towards the sea. Return to Bandarawela in the late afternoon and soak up the rural charm of the town before returning to your accommodation for the evening. Overnight Ceylon Tea Bungalows (B, L)  

Day 8 – Bandarawela – Yala National Park (Drive – 3½ hours)  
If you feel inclined to stretch your legs this morning, an early breakfast can be taken and then take the short journey to Ella for a highly recommended 1½ hour walk to Little Adams Peak, to enjoy fabulous views if conditions are clear. Visit a local tea factory and take a fascinating guided tour which retraces the footsteps of tea from the succulent, aromatic green leaves to the final packaged product. (Tea Factories are closed on Sundays). Afterwards, follow the meanderingly mesmeric road down towards the coast and towards Yala National Park. The park is internationally acclaimed as the jewel in Sri Lanka’s wildlife viewing crown. After check in, you will take a late afternoon safari which will offer fine opportunities of viewing the wonderful array of species here: from Leopard and Elephant to Crocodile and many species of birds. Overnight Kithala Resort (B)

Yala National Park
Yala proudly boasts that it possesses a higher leopard density than anywhere else in the world and this is sufficient to make it famous as a site where leopard viewing is an excellent possibility.  Founded as a National park in 1938, Yala has always been a wilderness area and the park now consists of 5 designated areas, two of which are open for public safaris.  In the rainy season the water sources and rivers are abundant, but by the drier months wildlife tends to congregate around pools, lagoon and tanks to feed, offering some superb chances for observing some of the 350 elephants, 25 leopards and countless water buffalo, toque macaque, civets, fishing cat and sloth bears.  Bird watchers will find Yala equally rewarding – pelicans, flamingos, eagles and flycatchers are some of the families amongst the 215 species recorded here, whilst special treats come with the seven endemics – Blue-tailed bee-eater Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Crimson-fronted barbet, Black-capped bulbul, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl and Brown-capped babbler.  A useful tip is to be willing to travel some distance: the quieter areas tend to be the less disturbed and offer the most rewarding and breathtaking vision of what Yala truly has to offer.

Day 9 – Yala National Park – Galle (Drive – 3hours)   
Early this morning take another safari to a different part of the park exploring the depths of the little visited Block 5, also referred to as Lunagamhavera National Park.  Once again, this stunningly idyllic escape into the wilds of the wider Yala Park offers a real sense of seclusion and adventure – few tourists stray this far, adding greatly to its appeal. Accordingly, wildlife is abundant but much shyer here: viewing can be challenging, but offers some highly rewarding surprises and lends the whole experience an air of pioneering and discovery. Return to your hotel for a late breakfast and some leisure time, before the afternoon drive along the South coast to Galle. Overnight Fort Printers (B)   

Lunagamhavera National Park
In 1995 it was recognised that the vital wildlife focal points at the water tanks and Lunagamvehera Reservoir needed to have their catchment area protected. Thus arose the National Park which, in its own right, is also a richly diverse habitat, linking elephants with the nearby Yala and Udawalawe National Parks.  The fact that it also draws elephants from wild areas to the north and south means that it is exceptionally rewarding in its prolific sightings of the species.  Owing to its wide range of woodland, grassland and scrub habitats, covering 89 square miles, the Park has recorded some 43 mammal species, from Wild boar to Sri Lankan axis deer and Grizzled giant squirrel to Sloth bear and Mouse deer, 12 amphibian species and 33 species of reptiles.  Leopard sightings, though not the Parks’ main draw, are not uncommon.  As its focal point, the reservoir is home to an incredible range of water birds (around 200 species). Amongst notable endemics are Sri Lanka jungle fowl and Brown-capped Babbler, as well as Spot-billed pelican, Malabar pied hornbill, Marshall's iora, Jungle owlet and Grey-headed fish eagle.

Day 10 – Galle Cooking Experience
This morning, in the company of an expert local chef, visit the local market and choose the freshest ingredients, before returning to the kitchen for an interactive cooking experience. You will prepare a typical Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch consisting of fish, prawns, lentils, vegetables, sambol and rice. After savouring the fruits of your labours, start to explore the atmospheric old streets and the fort ramparts at your leisure and soak up the history that exudes from every street corner. Overnight Fort Printers (B, L)  

Galle
A fascinating blend of cultures lends Galle a sense of being a step back in time. The effervescent Sri Lankan spirit abounds, yet here it is set in a world of Dutch and British colonial influence. The old town is positioned on a peninsula on Sri Lanka’s south west coats and circuitous and seductive cobbled streets open out into grand military edifices: Galle’s history as a vital trading post for hundreds of years is never far from the consciousness here.  The sea air combines with the tropical warmth to lend a languor and dreaminess to a visit.  As evening approaches, the ramparts of the fort which lies at the heart of the old city swell with people coming to view the simply breath-taking silence of the iridescent sunset. Alongside, the city’s obsession with cricket is everywhere, with games seemingly springing up on every street corner. Galle’s significance as a port dates back to at least 1400 BC and cinnamon has long been exported throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, a prized trading partner of such as the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese and Malays.  European domination is relatively modern, though the fort, Jesuit cathedral and Amangalla historic hotel are major draws to visitors, alongside the Shiva temple, the close-by beautiful beaches, and the buzzing cafés and gelaterias.

Day 11 – Galle at leisure
Spend your day at leisure in the historic confines of Galle. There are many cafes, restaurants and boutiques to explore. If you prefer to venture out of the city then consider a trip to nearby Unawatuna Beach for some relaxation and swimming amongst a classic tropical scene. Alternatively, wildlife enthusiasts take a whale watching trip from the town of Mirissa (optional extra cost).  During the right season, when the waters are warm and the seas calm, a rich abundance of sea-life can be seen, from Bottlenose and Spinner dolphins to Sperm, Fin, Bryde’s and short finned whales. Turtles, Orca, Whale shark are also often present. However, the world’s largest mammal, the magnificent Blue whale is a very regular sighting. It’s worth noting that it can take some hours to locate whales and obviously, nature being nature, sightings are not guaranteed and seas can be rough; the probability is high of some encounters, with most boats claiming a 90% success rate in locating Blue whales. Overnight Fort Printers (B)

Day 12 – Galle – Colombo (Drive – 3 hours)   
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to the capital Colombo. On arrival check in to the hotel and spend some time walking the Galle Face Green to see the locals indulge in a spot of kite flying or one of the myriad of impromptu games of cricket beside the ocean. This evening, head to Sri Lanka’s oldest Muslim café for some mouth-watering Chicken Masala and Biriyani. The café has a colourful history and is a truly authentic experience. Overnight Galle Face Hotel (B, D)

Colombo
In the gallop to reach the wonderful diversity of Sri Lanka’s history and natural landscapes, many visitors make the mistake of simply treating Colombo as a point of embarkation.  In fact, it is a colourful, historic and culturally fascinating capital city, worthy of proper exploration. Under a million people inhabit the city proper and its origins go back to well over 2,000 years ago. The natural harbour has always drawn traders and the Arab merchants who probably first settled in larger numbers were, as is the model in southern Sri Lanka, supplanted first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British who captured the Portuguese fortress and eventually made Colombo the capital of British Ceylon. Hence, since independence in the 1940s, Colombo has retained a sense of multi-culturalism in terms of architecture, language, religion (14% of Columbans are still Christian), diet and dress. The city’s layout is criss-crossed by canals, divided by parks and wide streets, suggesting a gravitas that befits the modern economic capital of Sri Lanka. As such, the parliament and government offices are still housed in magnificent colonial buildings. Perhaps the most evocative and well-known scene comes at Galle Face Green, set against the Indian Ocean, a splendid recreational space, where kite flying, picnicking and simply ‘being seen’ are all pass-times! The heart of the city features countless craft, textile and jewellery shops and the restaurants of Columbo are second to none in the country. Visitors come for the nineteenth century magnificence of the Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple, and the plethora of graceful parks and squares. Cricket is never far from the eye, and the stadium here is well worth a visit if you coincide with a match. The Pettah floating market is a new venture which might also take your fancy. Alternatively, if you feel the need to escape, a short train hop along the coast will take you to Mount Lavinia, a popular beach, or a taxi ride will enable you to explore the Talangama Wetland where over 100 bird species and numerous butterflies can be seen and the delightful endemic purple-faced leaf monkey has its last stronghold in the region.

Day 13 – Colombo  
Explore Colombo this morning on a city tour. The sightseeing can be personalised to your preferences but some highlights can include, Old Parliament House, The Dutch Museum and Independence Square to name but a few. After the tour, head away from the polish of international-style restaurants to a local Jaffna Kade and enjoy the secrets of locals’ dishes, eating some of the islands best chilli crab and Jaffna omelettes served on banana leaf.  The rest of the afternoon will be for you to relax at the Galle Face hotel or take a walk on the Galle Face itself. This evening, enjoy one last culinary treat with dinner at the stylish and acclaimed Gallery Café. Overnight Galle Face Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 14 – Depart Sri Lanka (Drive – 1 hour)   
Enjoy a leisurely al fresco breakfast, overlooking the glittering Indian Ocean, before transferring to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Please let us know if you wish to extend your trip with a beach stay, either on the tropical South or West coast.